"Social Value" Might Change the Way You Think About Impact
On 27 January 2021, Social Value Ireland, a network convened by The Wheel, Whitebarn Consulting and Quality Matters, held its inaugural meeting. 70 members from different sectors across Ireland attended. The highlights from the speakers show how important the concept of "social value" can be in demonstrating nonprofits' impact.
Ben Carpenter, CEO of Social Value International
Our first speaker was Ben Carpenter, CEO of Social Value International, a professional body for social value and impact management. Ben explained that as a member-led organisation, Social Value International’s mission is to change the way organisations and states account for value. He highlighted that, now more than ever, the values of equality and the value of the environment are key to decision-making and that social value plays a vital role in supporting evidence-informed discussions.
“The ideas that our networks are forming are becoming mainstreamed” he stated, highlighting Social Value International’s increased collaboration with the OECD and United Nations Development Programme. “We are a movement of professionals from different walks of life and sectors, but we are all people who are campaigning for a different understanding of value.” He congratulated Social Value Ireland s for being the twenty-seventh network to join Social Value International.
More information about Social Value International’s work can be found on this website.
Jessica Curtis, Senior Fund Manager and Head of Education and Health with Rethink Ireland
Our next speaker was Jessica Curtis representing Rethink Ireland, a venture philanthropy fund providing cash grants and business support to social innovations that can make a real difference to Ireland. While outlining Rethink Ireland’s plans for measuring social impact, she said “our goal is to create an evidence base about impact, not just to prove it, but to improve what we are doing”.
In the past year, Rethink Ireland has been working with Social Value International and Quality Matters to develop a framework for the fund to assess its overall value, as well as support individual organisations on this journey. NUI Galway are also applying the social value approach in the evaluation of some of the funds. Jessica highlighted that the benefit of Social Return On Investment (SROI) is its principle-based approach to understanding and valuing impact, explaining “we need the opportunity to find the voice of our stakeholders and make sure that it’s heard clearly”. She reiterated how Rethink Ireland’s goal is to help social innovators with creating an impact, as well as showing both government and social investors the benefit of their investment, not just the cost.
For more information about Rethink Ireland, please visit their website.
Cormac Ó Donnchú, former Chairperson of CLG Na Fianna
Next, Cormac Ó Donnchú spoke about the experience of commissioning an SROI analysis of CLG Na Fianna, which is a GAA club located in Glasnevin on the northside of Dublin with over 100 teams across various sports and ages. “We would view our organisation as the glue that binds our community together and expresses an important national identify for both sports and culture” said Cormac. “We wanted to get some evidence on the impact we were having in the local community, and this process certainly provided that. “The headline figure was that we had delivered €50 million of social value in the year under study” explained Cormac as he discussed key findings from the report, which was undertaken in partnership with Sandra Velthuis of Whitebarn Consulting.
When the report was published, Cormac said the local and national press coverage helped to raise the profile about the value of GAA in local communities and raise important national issues with decision-makers. Cormac also highlighted how the report is a positive affirmation of volunteer work and the value of that clubs have for its members. “This affirmation shows there is very significant value in the hard work and commitment of volunteers.”
To view the SROI analysis of Na Fianna, please click here.
Cormac Maloney, CEO of Vantastic
Established in 2000, Vantastic is an Irish social enterprise providing accessible transportation services for people with disabilities and older people. In 2019, Vantastic undertook a SROI analysis of its wheelchair-accessible car rental service, in collaboration with Quality Matters, a social research charity. “We wanted to try to establish if we were correct in our thinking about the impact we generate” explained Cormac as he outlined the reasons for choosing SROI.
Findings from the evaluation showed that for every €1.00 invested in the Vantastic service, there was a social return of €2.40, but he insisted organisations should look at the wider benefits of SROI aside from this headline figure. “We knew this figure would go down well with our funders and for attracting the press, but we knew that there was a risk this figure might not be as high as we predicted” explained Cormac. “An important learning has been the engagement with our participants” he explained; “our service does make an impact and it has helped us to gather data about our participant’s experiences that we did not have information about before” said Cormac.
To view the SROI analysis of Vantastic, please click here to view the Executive Summary.
Workshops from Accredited social value practitioners
Members participated in three 30-minute workshops:
Sandra Velthuis of Whitebarn Consulting introduced the concept of social value and how this can be better understood and applied in Ireland
Philip Isard of Quality Matters delivered an introduction to SROI, which explained the key steps and principles used
Caroline Gardner of Quality Matters gave an overview of how to avoid overclaiming, with a focus on addressing counterfactuals and attribution in evaluation.
It was highlighted that The Wheel and Quality Matters would be delivering a six-week online SROI practitioner course in February and March, which is a great way for individuals and organisations to learn about how to undertake an SROI analysis. For more information about the SROI course, please click here.
To wrap things up, Caroline from Quality Matters gave an overview of future events and said “measuring impact is challenging, but Social Value Ireland is a growing network of practitioners ready to help one another to implement good practice in this area and to advocate to policy-makers and decision-makers about the importance of understanding social value”. Members will also be given an opportunity to indicate their priorities in a survey in the next few weeks.
Looking to the future, Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel acknowledged the amazing turnout for the event and thanked each of the guest speakers for sharing their experiences. Deirdre stated “we know organisations are creating an impact, but we don’t always have the evidence to support this story” as she highlighted the aspiration behind Social Value Ireland and its upcoming events for the year.
Keep a look out for an announcement about Social Value Ireland’s next event. If you are not yet registered as a member, you can sign up here (it's free).